May 13, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 13, 2022
A 49-Year Crusade: Inside the movement to overturn Roe v. Wade
MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Caroline Kitchener, and Rachel Roubein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2022
Soon after Donald Trump won the 2016 election, Leonard Leo, the head of the conservative Federalist Society, met with the president-elect and his advisers with a list of six potential conservative nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Leo laid out a road map for Trump on the federal court system, potentially transforming the foundational understanding of rights in America. It was a moment that antiabortion activists had been working toward for decades: The highest reaches of Republican power finally focused, in unison, on achieving the once implausible goal of revisiting the jurisprudence of the 1960s and 1970s, including Roe v. Wade.
Congressman Probing Commanders Cancels Fundraiser Over Ethics Question
MSN – Daniel Lippman (Politico) | Published: 5/10/2022
U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi has been investigating the Washington Commanders as chairperson of a House oversight subcommittee. He is also raising money for his reelection. Those two facts collided when Krishnamoorthi canceled a fundraiser after a reporter questioned the event. The issue was whether it was inappropriate for a pair of lobbyists, Mike Manatos and Tom Manatos, to explicitly invite donors to the event to discuss with Krishnamoorthi the probe of the football team and its owner, Dan Snyder. Linking pleas for campaign money to specific legislative actions is not allowed.
Dem AGs Pledge to Hold the Line If Roe Falls
Politico – Alice Miranda Ollstein | Published: 5/9/2022
While attorney general races tend to have lower turnout and spending than gubernatorial contests, the state’s chief law enforcement office has long been a springboard for politicians. In this year’s races, the possible overturning of Roe v, Wade has become a central issue. Those running in red and purple states have pledged not to prosecute people under whatever abortion bans their legislators or governors impose, while those in blue states are vowing to keep local prosecutors at bay and preserve access to the procedure.
Elon Musk Says He Would Reverse Twitter Ban on Donald Trump
MSN – Faiz Siddiqui, Drew Harwell, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
Elon Musk said he will reverse Twitter’s permanent ban of former President Trump if the Tesla chief executive follows through with his plan to buy the social media company. Twitter banned Trump in the wake of the January 6 riots, citing the risk of further violence. Musk said the decision to ban Trump from the platform was a mistake. The decision to do so alienated much of the country, and Trump still has a voice, Musk said. Twitter has said its efforts have been aimed at minimizing harm and improving the user experience by limiting exposure to hate speech and harassment.
GOP State Legislators Move to Police Social Media
Yahoo News – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 5/11/2022
Republican lawmakers in at least 18 states have considered bills that would impose penalties on social media companies for censorship or content limits based on ideological viewpoints. The specifics vary, but many of the proposals would allow users who believe their views have been censored or silenced to bring lawsuits in state courts. One industry insider said forcing social media outlets to justify their decisions to moderate specific instances of content, the bulk of which are made by computer algorithms, would open those companies to legal harassment.
Inside Mark Meadows’s Final Push to Keep Trump in Power
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2022
A review of Mark Meadows’ actions in a crucial three-week period culminating in the violent insurrection on January 6, 2021 – based on interviews, depositions, text messages, emails, congressional documents, recently published memoirs by key players and other material – shows how Meadows played a pivotal role in advancing Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Meadows’ moves are at the center of probes by both the House committee investigating the attack and the Justice Department, which is examining whether to press contempt-of-Congress charges against him and is conducting its own inquiry.
Judge Dismisses Trump’s Lawsuit Against Twitter
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2022
A California judge dismissed a lawsuit that Donald Trump filed against Twitter, the latest blow to the former president’s battles with major tech companies over their decisions to suspend his accounts in the fallout of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The lawsuit, which Trump initially filed last year along with suits targeting Google and Facebook, was viewed as part of a broader strategy to appeal to conservatives who have long argued social media companies unfairly censor their viewpoints.
Pelosi Sets $45,000 Minimum Yearly Salary for House Staff
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 5/6/2022
Addressing concerns about the working conditions for some Capitol Hill aides, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a $45,000 minimum annual salary for House staff and teed up for a vote a resolution that would pave the way for aides to join a union. While jobs on Capitol Hill are highly coveted and can lead to big salaries down the road, the work often involves grueling hours and low pay in a region where steep housing costs can leave little money for other necessities.
Supreme Court Leak Inquiry Exposes Gray Area of Press Protections
MSN – Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 5/7/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1971 ruled the government could not prevent The New York Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers while the source of that leak, Daniel Ellsberg, was indicted by a federal grand jury for theft. The court is now grappling with the release of a draft opinion that sets the framework for overturning Roe v. Wade. Only this time the leak came from inside the building, and there is no law or code of conduct that suggests how an investigation into such a breach should proceed, or whether the journalists who brought the draft to light will be swept up in the kind of criminal investigation that top Republican lawmakers have demanded.
With High Court in Spotlight, Democrats Push Judicial Ethics Overhaul
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
In the wake of revelations related to the U.S. Supreme Court, a group of liberal House and Senate Democrats is introducing new legislation to tighten judicial ethics laws, reflecting the rising anger on the left over the recent conduct of the high court’s conservative majority. A draft proposal calls for more disclosure, a binding code of conduct for the Supreme Court, and a new judicial recusal process. The Supreme Court is the only court in the country that is not required to abide by a judicial code of ethics.
Canada – MLA’s Motions to Improve Alberta Lobbyist Act Rejected by Committee
MSN – Michelle Bellefontaine (CBC) | Published: 5/8/2022
A committee of lawmakers reviewing Alberta’s Lobbyist Act voted against changes proposed by the province’s ethics commissioner, including the establishment of a registry to track meetings between lobbyists and public officeholders. The only motion accepted by the committee was a recommendation that government “take into account the importance of public transparency” when changing the act, which must be reviewed every five years. The provincial government will ultimately decide what it will accept when moving forward with changes to the law.
From the States and Municipalities
California – CalPERS Board Violated Open Meetings Law, Judge Rules. Ex-Board Member Wants More Information
Sacramento Bee – Wes Venteicher | Published: 5/9/2022
A judge ruled California Public Employees Retirement System’s Board of Administration violated open meetings law when it excluded the public from a discussion two years ago related to the exit of Ben Ming, its former investment chief. Meng quit after a conflict-of-interest complaint was filed over his personal investments in Blackstone, a private equity firm in which the pension fund also was invested. A notice published by the board said the meeting, held 12 days after Meng’s resignation, was closed so board members could discuss a “chief executive officer’s briefing on performance, employment, and personnel items.”
Colorado – Election-Denying Clerk Tina Peters, Deputy Belinda Knisley Barred from Overseeing 2022 Elections in Mesa County
MSN – Saja Hindi (Denver Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
For the second year in a row, a judge has ruled Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley are barred from overseeing an election – this time, the June primaries and November general election. Peters, who disputes the 2020 presidential election result and is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state, is also facing multiple investigations surrounding allegations of an election equipment security breach and campaign finance violations, including 10 criminal counts. Knisley was also indicted by the grand jury and was suspended from her role at the county for a workplace investigation.
Florida – Appeals Court Reinstates Florida’s 2021 Election Law Provisions Struck Gown by Judge
MSN – Steven Lemongello (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/6/2022
A federal appeals court overruled a judge who struck down much of Florida’s controversial 2021 election law, allowing the provisions to go into effect while a lawsuit makes its way through the courts. Judge Mark Walker ruled in March the Legislature intentionally discriminated against Black voters in drafting the law and ordered the state not to make any future changes to those provisions without his court’s approval. But three judges on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the state’s request to appeal and overturn Walker’s ruling. The judges wrote the upcoming primary elections were too imminent for Walker to make such changes to the law.
Georgia – Challenge Over Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Eligibility Fails
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 5/6/2022
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger accepted a judge’s findings and said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is qualified to run for reelection despite claims by a group of voters that she had engaged in insurrection. Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot said Greene was eligible to run, finding the voters had not produced sufficient evidence to back their claims. After Raffensperger adopted the judge’s decision, the group that filed the complaint on behalf of the voters vowed to appeal.
Hawaii – Will Former Lawmakers’ Bribery Charges Lead to Broader Government Reform?
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 5/9/2022
There has been a renewed focus this year in Hawaii on government ethics and corruption in the wake of criminal charges involving two former lawmakers. J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen both pleaded guilty accepting bribes as part of a scheme to influence legislation. The charges also led to the creation of a group to address government conduct. Now, lawmakers and many in the public will be looking to the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct for proposals on how to tighten up ethics laws and increase government transparency ahead of the 2023 legislative session, which opens in January.
Kentucky – Andy Beshear Sues Over GOP Plan to Reduce His Power Over Ethics Commission Appointments
Yahoo News – Morgan Watkins (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 5/6/2022
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear sued over legislation the Republican-run General Assembly passed that reduces his authority to appoint members to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The bill shifts Beshear’s power to the state’s constitutional officers, who are all Republicans. Beshear wants a judge to nix House Bill 334, which expands the ethics commission from five members to seven and gives the governor two appointments to the board while granting five other state officeholders one appointment each.
Maryland – Exclusive: U.S. congressman’s campaign may violate state election law
Yahoo News – Eric Cortellessa (Time) | Published: 5/8/2022
U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown wants to be Maryland’s top law enforcement officer, but his own campaign’s spending may violate state election law, according to campaign finance experts. Brown announced on October 25 that he would retire from Congress and run for state attorney general. Since then, he has used funds from his congressional campaign account to bankroll his bid for statewide office, a review of his financial disclosures shows. Meanwhile, Brown spent nothing from his state account to compensate the campaign’s staff in its first months of operation, the review found.
Michigan – ‘Massive Forgery Scheme’ Claims Rock Michigan Elections, Governor’s Race
Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/5/2022
A petition fraud scandal threatening the candidacy of Republican gubernatorial front-runner James Craig has spread to at least three other Michigan candidates accused of submitting forged signatures from the same circulators in their quest to make the primary ballot. Gubernatorial, congressional, and judicial candidates are required to submit voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but experts say unusually high demand for paid circulators this spring led to a price spike that may have incentivized cheating or sloppy collections. State canvassers will soon decide who makes the ballot.
Michigan – Michigan Legislature Puts Term Limits Proposal on Ballot
MSN – David Eggert (Associated Press) | Published: 5/10/2022
The Michigan Legislature voted to put before voters a constitutional amendment to revise the state’s legislative term limits law and require state elected officials to disclose their personal financial information. Supporters of amending term limits say it would enable new lawmakers to focus on their job instead of immediately looking to run for higher office or find work outside the Legislature. Opponents say it is being mischaracterized as a proposal to improve term limits when it would double how many terms a House member could serve.
Mississippi – No More Anonymity, No Complaints During Election Season: Changes to city ethics complaints process coming
Yahoo News – Angele Latham (Jackson Sun) | Published: 5/5/2022
Changes may soon be coming to the way ethics complaints are handled against elected city officials in Jackson after council members voted on first reading to amend portions of the code of ethics to allow for the creation of an ethics board. Most notably, constituents may soon be unable to file complaints anonymously, and may only be able to file them outside of election season. The changes will become official if it is passed on second reading at the June city council meeting.
Nebraska – Pillen Beats Trump’s Candidate in Nebraska Governor Primary
ABC News – Grant Schulte (Associated Press) | Published: 5/11/2022
Republican voters in Nebraska picked Jim Pillen as their nominee for governor, siding with the University of Nebraska regent backed by the state’s outgoing governor over a rival supported by former President Trump and accused of groping multiple women. While Trump-endorsed candidates won primary races in West Virginia for the U.S. House, the statewide loss in Nebraska was a setback for the former president. Charles Herbster’s loss raises the stakes on other high-profile races in Pennsylvania and Georgia, where Trump has also intervened in campaigns.
New Jersey – Murphy Vetoes Bill Closing Bribery ‘Loopholes,’ Wants to Make the Law Tougher
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/10/2022
Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed a bill intended to close what its sponsors called a “loophole” in New Jersey’s corruption laws, which would make it clear it is illegal even for candidates to accept a bribe in the state. Murphy called for amendments that would make the bill even tougher. Those amendments would include charging anyone who facilitated or served as a go-between in setting up a bribe or payoff. The state Legislature voted unanimously to change the law to unequivocally state that bribery laws apply not only to public officials, but to candidates for public office as well.
New York – Ethics Commission Hits Back at Cuomo, Seeking $5M Book Repayment
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/9/2022
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) countersued ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, filing a court action seeking to force the repayment of $5.1 million in book proceeds paid to the former governor. In March, JCOPE ordered Cuomo to repay the money, but he has taken no steps to repay the book’s publisher. In the counterclaim, attorneys representing the commission asked that Cuomo be forced to repay the funds, and for an injunction barring Cuomo from disbursing the money in the meantime.
New York – For Nonprofits, a Voice in Lobbying Is Often Out of Reach Due to Rules
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 5/9/2022
Small nonprofit and other grassroots organizations are pushing for a $10,000 registration threshold in New York for lobbying-related spending. Doubling the current limit would enable many of those organizations and individuals to engage in trying to influence public policy without the need to expend resources or money to comply with the state’s reporting requirements. Nonprofit New York compiled a policy brief that found only three percent of nonprofit groups engage in lobbying with many dissuaded to participate because they are not equipped to handle the complex lobbying reporting requirements and fear the penalties that result from missteps.
New York – Judge Lifts Contempt Ruling Against Trump, with Conditions
Yahoo News – Graham Kates (CBS News) | Published: 5/11/2022
A New York State judge lifted a civil contempt ruling levied against Donald Trump, but said the former president still needs to pay $110,000 in fines accrued and satisfy other conditions. Trump was held in contempt on April 25 after failing to comply with a subpoena requiring that he turn over documents to investigators conducting a financial fraud probe for New York Attorney General Letitia James. Trump was fined $10,000 per day through May 6, the date of his most recent filing in the case.
Ohio – City Worker Who Helped Convicted Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson in Corruption Scheme Spared Prison Time
MSN – Corey Shaffer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 5/10/2022
A federal judge spared a former city of Cleveland employee from prison for his role in helping then-council member Kenneth Johnson carry out a long-running corruption scheme. U.S. District Court Judge John Adams sentenced Robert Fitzpatrick to three years of probation. Fitzpatrick cooperated with the FBI investigation into Johnson, who took Fitzpatrick in to live with him as a teenager and then manipulated him to fall in line with the corruption scheme.
Oregon – Candidates, Others Have to Reset Passwords to Oregon Campaign Finance System After Hack
Oregon Capital Journal – Lynne Terry | Published: 5/10/2022
About 1,100 people who use the Oregon secretary of state’s online campaign finance tracking system must reset their passwords following a ransomware attack against a web provider. The office said the hack did not affect state election data. Those affected account for roughly 6% of the database users, the office said. The office is notifying those affected they have to create new passwords. The ORESTAR system is separate from other electoral databases.
Oregon – Prison Club for Oregon’s Convicted Killers Investigated for Financial ‘Discrepancies’
MSN – Noelle Crombie (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/8/2022
The newsletters provide updates on the wholesome pursuits of a civic-minded club: barbecues, toy drives, and backpacks filled with school supplies for children in need. The group spearheads an annual holiday gift giveaway, ensuring those without families of their own do not feel left out. Its members oversee a six-figure fundraising juggernaut. But this is no Rotary Club. It is the Lifers’ Unlimited Club at the Oregon State Penitentiary where only convicted killers need apply, and now it is in trouble. State Department of Corrections officials confirmed they have halted club activities while they investigate “discrepancies” in its finances.
South Carolina – SC GOP Lawmaker Settles 133 Alleged Campaign Finance Violations for Fine, Public Reprimand
MSN – Zak Koeske (The State) | Published: 5/5/2022
A state lawmaker who faced more than 100 ethics charges related to his use of campaign money settled the accusations with the South Carolina House Ethics Committee. Rep. Jonathon Hill, who is not seeking reelection, entered into a consent order with the committee. Under the terms of the settlement, Hill will be fined $12,000 and receive a public reprimand. He has not been criminally charged. An outside audit of Hill’s campaign disclosure reports over a three-year period turned up numerous alleged violations of South Carolina ethics code.
Tennessee – Titans Stadium Push Shows Family Connections on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 5/9/2022
The Tennessee Titans wanted a new stadium – a domed facility that could cost more than $2 billion – to replace the aging structure that opened almost 23 years ago. It put together a team of 15 lobbyists, including the wife of the powerful chairperson of the Senate Finance Committee and the daughter of the state’s Commissioner of Tourist Development. The lobbying effort is the latest example that reveals how the lines between public interest and personal interest can get blurred at the Capitol.
Virginia – Battling Yard Signs on a Quiet Corner in Alexandria
MSN – Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2022
Old Town Alexandria has in many ways stayed above the cultural fray that has dominated other parts of Northern Virginia over the past few years – avoiding explosive rallies over critical race theory like in nearby Loudoun County, for example. But dueling yard signs that appeared recently have brought the debate to the neighborhood. Many neighbors said the signs made public a sort of tension that is rarely articulated in an area proud of its understated brand of liberalism.
Virginia – State Supreme Court Vacancies Remain Unfilled During Political Standoff
Virginia Mercury – Allison Winter | Published: 5/9/2022
Two vacant seats in the Virginia Supreme Court that opened in the past year hang in the balance in the political standoff in the Legislature. State lawmakers said their negotiations continue but indicated they are no closer to resolution. Selecting justices is a constitutional duty of the General Assembly, which elects the justices by a majority vote. Once elected, a justice can serve for a 12-year term. In recent history Republican Legislatures have elected justices as a matter of course. But this year, the appointments are one of many political deadlocks in the current divided Legislature.
Virginia – Youngkin Retracts Job Offer to Indiana Official to Run Virginia DMV
MSN – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2022
Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration retracted a job offer to a former Indiana state official to run the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles after the chosen candidate was the subject of an exposé in The Indianapolis Star about allegations of drinking on the job and making inappropriate comments. The Star reported Peter Lacy “abruptly” resigned in April from his job as head of Indiana’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles a day after he allegedly appeared intoxicated at a departmental meeting.
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